Sunday, January 15, 2006

gambling and games

A great many older people resort to gambling for a touch of excitement. Although no one has ever actually estimated the numbers of seniors who participate in gambling, bingo, and lottery playing, they have long been approved pastimes for the elderly.
Then too, social groups and recreation agents sponsor day trips for seniors to Atlantic City and other gaming centers. There the senior participants eagerly flock to the slot machines and throng the gaming tables. Wisely, these sponsored trips usually caution their members to limit their pocket money ("bring only $30" is typical advice), so that losses are not usually disastrous, outings are stimulating and fun, and the few who come away cheerful winners receive the good humored jibes or plaudits of their friends.
Some people might dismiss gambling by elders as senseless and perhaps even sinful because many elders have limited incomes. A pair of researchers, Ken Stone and Richard Kalish, found positive values in gambling when they studied men who attended a legal poker club. They learned that these men enjoyed the hope of winning even if they did not really expect to; they like testing their skill and luck against that of others; they benefitted from socializing with friends and acquaintances; and they were stimulated by the excitement. As gerontologist Russell Ward concluded when reviewing this research, gambling offered these men “the possibility for social, emotional, and psychological engagement in an interesting activity.” Communities, churches, and nursing homes appear to recognize the positive values of gambling, and are frequent sponsors of bingo games, game nights, and other activities that involve some degree of chance and luck. Many individuals who have been active in playing competitive forms of gambling -- chess, bridge, set-back, cribbage, and poker -- continue to play as they grow older. Dominoes, checkers, Monopoly, Scrabble, and Mah-Jong all have their elderly enthusiasts whose expertise may even defeat young challengers. State lotteries and even bets on horses add zest to life. Older people do not necessarily gamble because they expect to win, but because they enjoy the excitement and unpredictability of the process. One might not expect it, but outcome of gambling is mental stimulation that may help older people retain their mental agility.
Fromme, A. Life After Work. Glenview, III.: AARP, 1984.
Gillies, J. A Guide to Caring for and Coping with Aging Parents. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981.
Ward, R. The Aging Experience, 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1984.

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